Interesting story in The Telegraph today (seel below) about how scientists think telomeres shorten on DNA strands years before cancer shows itself, so that may be a good predictor of future cancerous problems.
The idea of telomere shortening has been around for quite a few years now. I distinctly remember learning about it when we had the clinic in Uppermill, so that’s at least 8-9 years ago. The basis of our knowledge so far has been that the rate that telomeres on DNA shorten is a predictor of ageing, so I am not surprised scientists have found it in cancer studies.
I’ve actually been able to test telomere length for quite some time but actually chose not to offer it for the very insurance reasons The Telegraph mentions in their piece. I dread to think what insurance companies will end up doing to premiums for those who test positive!
What I take from this is that we should all be doing what we can to enhance our health and lifestyle anyway, not wait until we are told we have 13 years to do something to avoid cancer! We know that most cancer is triggered by lifestyle, not genes, and telomere length is equally affected by our lifestyle choices, like controlling obesity, not drinking to excess or smoking, ensuring good nutrition etc.
You can read the Telegraph article below. I find a lot of useful info on this subject, too, comes from the Life Extension Foundation, which is where I have picked up most of my – admittedly currently limited – knowledge about it. Do a search at LEF and here is an article to start you off from 2011:
You can use Mr Google, of course, to find out more. I found these FAQ quite simple and useful from Telomere Inc: http://www.telomehealth.com/telomefaqs/index.html
Their answer to Can I Protect My Telomeres From Shortening? question gives a hint at what we can all be doing to avoid cancer:
Based on the cross-sectional studies so far, linking telomere length to psychological states or certain lifestyle factors, it is likely that the following may help maintain or even lengthen our telomeres:
Increasing vigorous exercise to 4 to 5 times a week, such as getting on a bike, going for a brisk walk or jog, joining a gym, or practicing yoga, activities that increase your heart rate or make you sweat.
Improving nutrition: Eating a low-fat diet, eating less red and processed meat, like hot dogs and sausages, or taking dietary supplements that activate telomerase.
Improving metabolism: If overweight, losing some extra weight or reducing waist circumference.
Enhancing wellbeing: Reducing psychological stress and depression, and increasing feelings of personal control and purpose in life.